Medical Examiner identifies Graham remains

Albemarle Commonwealth Attorney's Office says it will work with law enforcement to determine appropriate charges


The Medical Examiner’s Office in Richmond positively identified the remains found last Saturday as belonging to second-year College student Hannah Graham. A search team from the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office found the remains last Saturday on an abandoned property off Old Lynchburg Road in an area near Walnut Creek Park, about 11 miles southwest of the University.

Graham went missing in the early morning hours of Sept. 13. Eyewitness accounts last place her at Tempo Restaurant on the Downtown Mall shortly after 1 a.m. Her body was discovered 35 days later.

Police notified Hannah’s parents, John and Sue Graham, following the positive identification.

In a statement, the Grahams thanked Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo and the Charlottesville community for their help in the investigation into Hannah's disappearance.

"When we started this journey together we all hoped for a happier ending," the Grahams said. "Sadly that was not to be, but due to the tenacity and determination of Chief Longo, Hannah is coming home to us and we will be eternally grateful to him for this."

Initially led by the Charlottesville Police Department, the case is now under the jurisdiction of the Albemarle County Police Department because Graham’s remains were found on property in Albemarle County.

Charlottesville resident Jesse Matthew currently faces charges in Charlottesville for abduction with intent to defile in Graham’s case. No new charges have been filed.

"The focus of the investigation now is to determine what charges will be brought and the appropriate time to make those charges," Albemarle County Commonwealth Attorney Denise Lunsford said in a press release. "We are working diligently with local law enforcement on the investigation to ensure that we make the best determination for our community and the Grahams in the pursuit of justice."

University President Teresa Sullivan sent an email Friday afternoon informing students of Graham’s death.

“Hannah showed great promise as a student and as a young woman,” Sullivan said in the statement. “She brought immense energy and delight to her learning at the University, and she was a source of friendship and joy for so many people here at the University and abroad, particularly her friends on the ski team. … For Hannah's young life to end so tragically, and for her destiny of promise to be left unfulfilled, is an affront to the sanctity of life and to the natural order of human events.”

Forensic evidence links Graham’s case to the death of Morgan Harrington in 2009, itself linked to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax County. A grand jury indicted Matthew on three counts Tuesday in the Fairfax case.

In a press release, the Albemarle County Police Department said they will be working with the Charlottesville Police Department, Fairfax Police Department and Virginia State Police as the investigation progresses.

Both the Commonwealth Attorney’s office and the Albemarle Police Department have said they will not comment further on the case to ensure swift and unbiased prosecution.

The Grahams thanked authorities, supporters and committed volunteers for their kind words and efforts to bring their daughter home.

"Although we have lost our precious Hannah, the light she radiated can never be extinguished," the Grahams said. "We will hold it in our hearts forever and it will help sustain us as we face a painful future without her."

They encouraged the public to remain mindful of other missing persons in Virginia and beyond, and asked that these families be kept in their thoughts and prayers.

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